Ephesians ǀ Your Identity in Christ (4)

Several centuries before Christ, Alexander the Great came out of Macedonia and Greece to conquer the Mediterranean world. He didn’t know it, but God was using him to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. On one of his campaigns, Alexander received a message that one of his soldiers had been continually, and seriously, misbehaving and thereby shedding a bad light on the character of all the Greek troops. And what made it even worse was that this soldier’s name was also Alexander. When the commander learned this, he sent word that he wanted to talk to the errant soldier in person. When the young man arrived at the tent of Alexander the Great, the commander asked him, “What is your name?” The reply came back, “Alexander, sir.” The great conqueror looked him straight in the eye and said forcefully, “Soldier, either change your behavior or change your name.”


Ephesians ǀ Your Identity in Christ (3)



The last couple of weeks we’ve been exploring the New Testament book of Ephesians.


Ephesians ǀ Your Identity in Christ (2)

Last Sunday we began a new series exploring the New Testament book of Ephesians. As I said last week, Ephesians is all about identity—specifically your identity in Christ.

I’m reminded of a pastor who visited a nursing home that had several residents with Alzheimer’s in it. He went around and greeted the people who were very glad to see him. He spotted a lady who use to be a member of his church, walked up to her and asked, “Do you know who I am?” She smiled blankly then said, “No, but if you go to the Front Desk, they can tell you.”


Ephesians ǀ Your Identity in Christ (1)

A few of weeks ago, Modesto Christian Church held their end-of-summer celebration for the kids who attended their summer children’s program. Ashley and I arrived early with our three kids and I helped pack a couple cases of water bottles into a cooler while Ashley and the kids played on the playground equipment. When I was finished I walked over toward the playground and spotted Ashley sitting on a bench with her back to me. Walking up behind her, I affectionately rubbed her shoulder and patted her on the back as I surveyed the playing children. Then, suddenly, I spotted something strange. Sitting on a bench on the opposite side of the playground was Ashley giving me the stink-eye. Total embarrassment washed over my face as I looked down to see that the woman whose back I was affectionately patting was not my wife! I apologized immediately and intentionally neglected to mention that I was the pastor at Blooming Grove. We ended up having a good laugh about it later, but that was one the most embarrassing experiences.

Has a case of mistaken identity ever gotten you in trouble? Or perhaps your trouble is with your own identity.


Labor Day

Did you hear about the young college graduate who was interviewing for his first job? When the HR Director asked him what he was looking for, the young man explained that he hoped to get an executive position with a starting salary of $100K, be placed in a corner office and he wanted his own secretary. The HR guy responded by offering to add a matching dollar for dollar to his 401K as well an company car of his choice, probably a BMW. Then asked, “How’s that sound?” The young man replied, “Are you kidding me???” The HR guy said, “Of course I am but you started it.”

When it comes to our career, most of us have our dream job and then we have our real job. Abraham Lincoln put it this way: “My father taught me to work.  He did not teach me to love it.”  Can you relate? How did you end up in the job that you have? Are you happy with your career choices so far? Do you look forward to going to work each day? Have you ever considered the link between your work and how that impacts your walk with Christ? Your job is a big deal to God.


Back to School

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” It’s that bitter-sweet time of year again… time to go back to school. Our youngest child, Abby, is starting kindergarten this year. It’s hard to believe that she was only seven months old when we moved here, yet she’ll be turning five in a week. We got her registered a couple of weeks ago and met her teacher. She’s looking forward to seeing all of her friends, but I don’t know how she feels about being in school all day. It reminds me of one little girl, just home from her first day of kindergarten, who was asked by her mother, “Honey, what did you learn today?” The little girl replied, “Not much. I’ve got to go back tomorrow.”


Are You a Fan or a Follower?

How many of you know what the letters DTR stand for? I didn’t know what DTR stood for until this week. Now I’m familiar with LOL, OMG, YOLO, and ROFLMAO. But I hadn’t heard DTR before. I actually looked it up on urbandictionary.com. But for a young man in a relationship, these letters strike fear in their hearts. They dread the DTR talk. It makes single men so uncomfortable they will only use the initials DTR. The objective is to postpone, run away, and put off DTR for as long as possible. In fact many men are so afraid of the DTR, they will self-destruct the relationship when they sense the DTR talk is imminent. Now do you want to guess what DTR stands for? D.T.R. stands for Define the Relationship. This is an official talk that takes place at some point in a romantic relationship to determine the level of commitment. You define the relationship and decide where things stand. Is it casual or is it committed? How serious is this relationship and where is it going? And how you feel about the DTR talk is determined by how committed you are to the relationship. If the relationship is one of convenience that you want to keep casual, then you will feel uncomfortable. You might feel anxious, shift in your seat a little bit, or you may even have a fight or flight response.


Joseph: Hope for Troubled Times (4)

A husband noticed that his wife was under a lot of pressure lately and she called him at work to tell him she was having a bad day, so he decided to do something he’d never done before. He arrives home from work one day, wearing a suit and tie, smelling of cologne and cradling a bouquet of flowers in one arm and a box of chocolates in the other. He rings the doorbell and stands with open arms, grinning ear to ear. His wife opens the door, takes one look at him standing there and starts crying. In between her sobs she says, “Oh, I can’t believe it! Michael’s been throwing up; the dishwasher just broke; your parents are coming to visit this weekend and to top it all off, you come home drunk!”

Perhaps you can relate. These past few weeks we’ve been looking at the life of Joseph. And so far Joseph’s life has been a whole string of bad days—one right after the other. Growing up in his father’s house, he was picked on a put down by his older brothers. His dreams of them someday bowing down to him got him thrown into a pit and sold like a possession to Pharaoh’s Captain of the Guard. When Joseph stood firm in his convictions and rejected her advances, the Captain’s wife got him thrown into prison. While there, he worked hard and helped others who shared his cell. But they didn’t bother to return the favor. The good news is—we’re finally getting to the good news.


Joseph: Hope for Troubled Times (3)

Before James Garfield became President of the United States, he was the principle of Hiram College in Ohio. One day, an affluent father once asked him if a particular course of study could be simplified so that his son could graduate in two years instead of four. “Certainly,” replied Garfield. “But it all depends on what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak tree, he takes a hundred years. When he wants to make a squash, he only takes two summers.”

Have you ever wondered what God wants to make of you? Or, perhaps, how long he’s going to take? We don’t like to wait, do we?  We’ve got schedules to keep and things to do. We weave through traffic looking for the fast lane. We frown at the person who takes eleven items to the ten-item express checkout. We drum our fingers while the microwave heats our coffee. We really don’t like to wait! We don’t like to wait on the doctor, we don’t like to wait on the pizza, and we certainly don’t like to wait on God.

Phillips Brooks, the famous Boston pastor, seemed particularly agitated one day. So his secretary asked him what was troubling him. He responded, “The trouble is that I’m in a hurry and God isn’t.” Isn’t that always the trouble?


Joseph: Hope for Troubled Times (2)

Yesterday we held a funeral luncheon here at the church for a member’s brother, who passed away earlier this week. I want to thank everyone who helped out with that. It’s such a blessing to have a church family that will come along next to you during difficult times. Funerals are never fun, but they remind us that loss is a part of life.

Suffering, struggle, and sadness are experiences that are hardwired into the world. It’s something we all go through at various times to varying degrees.

It reminds me of an Army Chaplain who had a sign on his door that said, “If you have troubles, come in and tell me all about them. If you don’t have troubles, come in and tell me how you do it.”